My take on Coconut Oil: Is it really pure poison?
Last week a professor from Harvard gave a talk titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors” where she claimed coconut oil is pure poison. The video of her talk has gone viral on YouTube and has people wondering about the coconut oil craze. Is it worth the hype or is it really pure poison?
There is nothing new here. The controversy surrounding coconut oil has been going on for years and it seems every year there is a new headline demonizing coconut oil.
One of the main reasons coconut oil gets a bad rap is because it is a saturated fat. We have been told for years that saturated fat causes heart disease, raises cholesterol and we should steer clear of it. There is a lot of research articles that explain the link to heart disease may be much less than previously thought (2). Saturated fat is naturally occurring in animal products and some plants such as coconuts. In moderation, these saturated fats may be part of an overall healthy diet. This doesn't mean that saturated fat is a health food and should be consumed in high quantities. However, we do need to consume some saturated fat. If we consume a variety of plant and animal foods, we are likely getting an adequate intake of saturated fats. No need to completely avoid saturated fats, especially since the foods containing saturated fats usually have many other nutrients as well!
Coconut oil contain high amounts of medium chain triglycerides. MCTs are shorter chain fatty acids that bypass part of the digestion process and can be used as energy right away. Once absorbed, they are converted to ketone bodies in the liver to be used as fuel/energy. Fat is the brain’s preferred source of energy when glucose is not available and is able to be used by every cell in our body. MCTs are saturated fats and are very stable and do not cause free radicals in the body (1).
Coconut oil is beneficial for the skin and can be used as a moisturizer. It also has antibacterial/antifungal properties.
Coconut oil can be part of an overall healthy diet that is diverse in vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. However, there is evidence that other oils (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) are heart protective, high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory such as olive oil and avocado oil. These oils may be more beneficial to use. To learn more about healthy fats read this blog post
The claim that coconut oil is poison is a bit much and very extreme. I use coconut oil in baking, smoothies and coffee on a weekly basis. It is not the only oil I use or my “go to” oil. When buying coconut oil, I look for a high quality one that is virgin or un refined, cold pressed and organic. I encourage you to do your own research to decide if it is something you want to consume.
See some articles below:
1. Ballantyne S. Paleo Principles: the Science behind the Paleo Template, Step-by-Step Guides, Meal Plans, and 200 Healthy & Delicious Recipes for Real Life. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.; 2017.
2. Fogelholm M. Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. F1000 - Post-publication peer review of the biomedical literature. November 2010. doi:10.3410/f.1947957.1501056.
3.Hyman M. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? New York: Little, Brown and Company; 2018.
4. Types of Fat. Obesity Prevention Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/. Published June 7, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.